Black-eyed Daisy

Jennifer Jason Leigh on bruises, handcuffs and The Hateful Eight.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Jennifer Jason Leigh:
Jennifer Jason Leigh: "I sent my mom [Barbara Turner] a picture of me the first day of shooting …"

New BAFTA nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh, at the Monkey Bar brunch for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight with Walton Goggins and Samuel L Jackson, hosted by Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein, told me her favorite western is Howard Hawks and Arthur Rosson's Red River, starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. Her favorite bad guy is Oliver Reed in Carol Reed's Oliver! and Robert Richardson knows how to light up Heba Thorisdottir's makeup artistry. Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps and Wim Wenders' Until The End Of The World did not influence Jennifer's relationship to handcuffs.

Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh): On cinematographer Bob Richardson
Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh): On cinematographer Bob Richardson "It's just his lighting is so gorgeous.

Her Daisy Domergue is a peculiar flower, planted in cuffs and linked to bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell). We meet her inside a stagecoach, making its way through the snowy wilderness of post-bellum Wyoming. On her way to be hanged, she sports an icy smile and the gallows humour of someone who has nothing to lose and perhaps a trump up their sleeve or under their sole. She is the only woman among the hateful protagonists and some might say her soul is the blackest.

Daisy, a Quentin Tarantino creation if there ever was one, is unlike any western gal in the movies. The way she is punched in the face is at once shocking and thought-provoking because we realise vividly how much the presumably acceptable standards of screen violence differ for men and women. The Hateful Eight cracks open the unspoken rules of who can be sexualised, how a punch should be taken, and the language that goes with it.

When I asked Tarantino if he thought of Bertolt Brecht's Pirate Jenny as godmother for Daisy, he said he didn't think of her, but accepts any Brecht reference gladly. Fugitive Daisy mustn't be underestimated and mercy is not part of her makeup.

Anne-Katrin Titze: You give a very impressive performance! Did this movie change your relationship to handcuffs?

Jennifer Jason Leigh with Walton Goggins and Samuel L Jackson at Monkey Bar
Jennifer Jason Leigh with Walton Goggins and Samuel L Jackson at Monkey Bar Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Jennifer Jason Leigh: Well, I never had a relationship to handcuffs before this movie. But it was strange. You know, in the beginning it was very difficult because the chain hurts and it was awkward figuring out how much room we had. It became really like choreography. But after a while, it became second nature and then it felt odd not to be cuffed.

AKT: That's interesting how quickly we adapt to things. Did you watch any handcuff movies? I am thinking of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps or Until the End Of The World?

JJL: I did not.

AKT: Do you have a favourite western, other than this?

JJL: I mean, I have several favourites. I always loved Red River. I love the relationships in that. I find it very touching.

AKT: Is there any western figure you used for creating Daisy or is she…

JJL: … No. It's really Quentin. He said to me she is like a Manson girl. You know, he wanted her dangerous and punk.

Daisy Domergue with Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and John Ruth(Kurt Russell):
Daisy Domergue with Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and John Ruth(Kurt Russell): "Well, I never had a relationship to handcuffs before this movie."

AKT: Great choice of name, Daisy!

JJL: I love it - Daisy, the flower.

AKT: The daintiest little white flower.

JJL: Incredible. It's such incredible work.

AKT: I liked your makeup - it's absurdly painterly and because of that even slightly sexy. The black eye and the blood.

JJL: Thank you. Yeah, the black eye. I sent my mom a picture of me the first day of shooting with the black eye and the scar, the cuts and the bruises and I said this is as good as it gets. The prettiest I'm going to look in the entire film.

AKT: Isn't this also a bit freeing?

JJL: Freeing, yeah. It is absolutely, yeah.

AKT: The scrutiny for women on screen - you don't have to think about that here.

John Ruth and Daisy with General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern):
John Ruth and Daisy with General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern): "He said to me she is like a Manson girl."

JJL: No, never. And also, you know, you have Bob Richardson shooting you. He is such an incredible DP. Actually I think there are some very beautiful shots in the movie. Where I think, oh, I look really pretty. I'm covered in blood or whatever - it's just his lighting is so gorgeous.

AKT: Last question. What's the most hateful character in film history that you can think of?

JJL: Bill Sikes from Oliver! [played by Oliver Reed in Carol Reed's film from 1968]

Read Quentin Tarantino on western wear, Bertolt Brecht's Pirate Jenny, and Tim Roth on Sam Shepard's God Of Hell.

Coming up - Walton Goggins and Samuel L Jackson on their favourite westerns and Jackson on his most hateful character in cinema history.

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